more than any other quality, Andrus Espre had the vision and determination
to remake himself, and once he invented the character he
called Beau Jocque, after a childhood nickname, there was no stopping
At the time he began learning to play the accordion, he had already
several scrapes with mortality, first in a military accident,
and then in an industrial mishap which left him temporarily paralyzed
from the waist down.
He and his wife, Michelle, began at tending zydeco dances and
making note of the kinds of grooves and songs that made people
move and respond.
Yet, there was nothing calculated in his music -he would latch
onto a rhythmic Figure or a melody or a verbal phrase and use
it as a springboard until pure feeling was the only governing
factor in his performance.
was a marvel to experience. At Richard's Club in Lawtell in 1993,
soon after the release of the Beau Jocque Boogie album,
parked cars lined the highway
for half a mile in each direction. His "Give Him Cornbread,"
based on a traditional melody but including a quote trom rapper
FM, became the biggest zydeco hit of the 1990s,
the kind of song DJs played twice in a row on the radio. He performed
in rodeo arenas and opened stadium shows in Houston for R&B
singers like Bobby
His band, particularly drummer Steve Charlot and the extraordinarily
talented bassist Chuck Bush, goaded him on with shouts
and yells until the intensity of their performances was palpable.
People were knocked out, and they kept
the very peak of Beau Jocque's popularity in South Louisiana,
promoter (and musician) Lawrence "Black" Ardoin
staged a battle of the bands between Beau Jocque and Boozoo
Chavis. Boozoo is the fireplug accordion player who had made
the first commercial zydeco record in 1954, and who had been riding
his own wave of popularity in the dancehalls when Beau Jocque
Over 1400 people showed up for this Sunday afternoon showdown
at the Habibi Temple in Lake Charles, including
the film-maker Bob Mugge, who found the theme for his film, The
Kingdom of Zydeco, in the sparring of these two musicians.
Coincidentally, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame had crowned Boozoo
"King of Zydeco" the day before, so a kingdom was truly
never-before-released album presents the set Beau Jocque played
that afternoon, and it may be his most fiery performance on record.
Along with songs from Beau Jocque Boogie, including a spectacular
performance of "Cornbread," are several traditional
songs and, as if up the ante in the "battle," two Boozoo
songs, "Bad Bad Woman" and "Do It All
if Beau Jocque was a true innovator, his roots were firmly implanted
Boozoo's firmament. In fact, their rivalry was like that of two
professional wrestlers, and they would wink at future batties
as the people lined up to
see them. Nonetheless, the excitement in the air at the Habibi
Temple inspired both musicians to give their best, even if, in
the end, the battle was ruled a draw.
Introduction by Lawrence Ardoin, "Give Him Cornbread,"
"Bad Bad Woman," "Beau Jocque Boogie," "Baby
Please Don't Go," "Grand Marais,' "Damballah,"
"'Gardez Donc!" "Brownskin Woman," "Nonc
Adam," "Boogie Chillen," "I Went To the Dance
Last Night," "Do It All! Night"